traditional vs Modern part:II

Part 2:

Q. Are modern/satellite/plant-type churches killing off parish churches?

This is something that my Dad believes with a passion. His view of our church (which, by the way, is officially part of the Church of England and the local diocese, and approved by the Bish etc etc) is that it is drawing people away from the parish churches. My simple answer is, well what does that tell you?

But I wonder, does he have a point? Should that matter? On the one hand I think, no he’s wrong, if the village churches catered a bit more for what people need they would be packed on a Sunday too. I mean the very fact that within 5 miles of us there are 2 large contemporary churches that are packed every Sunday, must show there is a need for that in the area right?

But on the other hand there are hundreds of beautiful old churches, across the world not just the UK, consecrated for the very purpose of worshipping God, with a handful of worshippers under their roofs every Sunday. So should we not be encouraging people to support their parish churches?

This is something I do feel very strongly about. There are churches being closed every week, being deconsecrated and turned into houses and offices and even bars. Some of these have been used for worship for hundreds of years. Is this right? If modern churches are having to hire sports halls and leisure centres for their services, then why not use some of these old churches. Even churches in use are often half empty every Sunday morning, so why do they have to do this? It seems completely backward in a way – crazy that on Easter Sunday at the 8am service in a local village to me, there were 20 people. 20 PEOPLE!! and yet down the road there were 20 people just waiting to set up for their service, only to find they had to run over to the local sports hall for help. so that 300+ people could come and worship. I am a bit of an architecture fan and whilst I understand many old buildings are not ideal for big services, it is possible and to me seems overtly sensible. Why can’t an outside church hire or use an existing church building for a service on a Sunday? or even once a month? Why can’t our church buildings be full every week?

Going back to the original question, in actual fact the congregation of my church is geographically very wide spread so although some people are chosing it over their local parish church, in the case of individual churches I dont think it is making a big dent in any single existing congregation. So then if people are coming from such a wide area, that presumably indicates that none of our local parish churches are offering what the locality needs, whilst the modern ones have to hire sports halls and are packed every weekend. So what does that say?..

Easter Day thoughts…

Q. When is a sports hall not a sports hall?
A. When it’s a church…

A slight techinical hitch this morning meant that our church which usually meets in a school hall, couldn’t set up as usual (ie:the caretaker didn’t arrive to unlock…) Thankfully the sports centre over the road had a free hall (or half a hall – the other half had badminton games going on…) and let us use their hall. The team this morning was amazing – they set up what usually takes nearly 2 hours, in 1, with no hitches, everyone pitched in and no one got lost on the way over!
I can imagine that my first thought on finding the gates locked on Easter Sunday, probably THE most important Sunday of the year, with no way of getting in (and all the equipment being locked in a container on site…) would have been one of mild panic. Actually wild panic might be more like it… It just goes to show:

For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37

And actually maybe there was a reason for it. I mean how many more people would have heard the Good News this morning than usual? Those maybe expecting to go for a quiet swim or a round of squash would have been hard pushed not to hear it, where we were. With the band louder than usual as the drum den was locked in the container, and very echoey accoustics the word surely travelled throughout the building. In fact those playing badminton next door were only separated by a net so they got the full message (and if they were chosing to play badminton on Easter Sunday morning, then they probably needed to hear it…)

My Dad came to our church for the first time today. He usually goes to his parish, very traditional, church. He has never been to our church before, but is rather doubtful about it as he feels it is taking people away from the parish churches, (more on that tomorrow I think…). However the one thing he did approve of was the rousing ‘Jesus is Risen, He is risen indeed, Allelulia’ which our congregation shouted out with undisguised joy, a far cry from the usual feintly murmured response at his church. At least he found one positive thing to say about it….

I was just thinking how I should finish off todays blog amd my 6 year old has just handed me a picture he has drawn, which says I love are (sic) God. and I love you Mum (except he drew hearts for the love bits). Children have such a simple take on things. Yesterday we talked about what Easter was all about and he has all the info, knows all the days, what happened and he just accepts it, just like that. I haven’t told him he should love our God, he just does and he doesn’t mind telling people. If only life were so simple for all of us…

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Luke 18:17

Good Friday Thoughts

So today is Good Friday, the first Good Friday in my life where I have actually truly believed. In previous years I have had no desire to go to the 3 hour long service at our local church, frankly I could have thought of nothing worse. So this year the very fact that our new church was encouraging people to go out and bless their community seemed a great opportunity to do something. We had open house. Stats for the day: 60something people, 150ish cuppas, 7 pints of milk, 150 hot cross buns, 1 vat of soup, 36 boiled eggs, 1 broken picture and a lot of chocolate and daffodills. A lovely day had by all. Great fellowship, fun for the kids, just lovely. Have looked forward to it for ages.
However, now at the end of the day, when the kids are off to bed and we are tidy, washed up and ordering a takeaway, I feel rather like I have missed out. Perhaps the 3 hours of meditation and contemplation would have been better. I’m not sure I have even spared more than 2 minutes in prayer or thinking on what Jesus did for us on this day all those years ago. I know it shouldn’t just be about the day, I mean we should remember it always but I kind of feel like I have let him down. and myself.

We’re off to watch ‘The Passion’ (Mel Gibsons version) over dinner, so perhaps that will bring it home. Not sure that is the answer either, but am no so exhausted from the days adventures that I don’t now have the energy to contemplate too much…

The bottom line is that I never have enough time for prayer and quiet contemplation, whatever day it is, so perhaps instead of beating myself up I should do something about that…

Jesus’ appearance

At work this morning, and I frankly have neither the energy nor inclination to do any, so I have been reading the papers, online, love it! Haven’t read a paper for a while and I was interested to see on Maundy Thursday how much religious input there would be in the press. Well, not much is the answer to that… But what I did find was interesting and a bit disturbing in places. Why is that some people (and quite often its non-believers) have an obsession with what Jesus actually looked like? I mean really, does it matter? Ok so we all have the traditional image of a young bearded man and then there are others who want to push the boundaires and suggest variations, usually based on ‘scientific’ or ‘historical’ fact that are way off this traditional image. I mean really, isn’t all about the person he was? isn’t that what he preached? It’s about the person, the heart underneath – he didn’t care if people were prostitiutes or lepers, he would speak to them, engage with them, heal them, it wasn’t about what they looked like. So what is this obsession with how HE looked? Is it a science thing? trying to prove what he looked like? presumably so they can then disprove it also…?

I start on this because there’s a bit in the press about the Turin Shroud, I guess because it is about to go on display again. There is, again, such obsession over whether it is real (and I will not go into that here..). Some American scientists (and I would like to say this is from yesterdays paper so it’s not an April Fool) claim they have produced a 3D image of Christ, using the shroud as their reference point. see here:

Ok so in science terms this is quite a feat: using a 2D image they have created a 3D one, and I am not disputing that this is possible, but why? why spend all this time and presumably money, on an image that may not be Christ at all, just some other poor soul who was crucified (or maybe not even that, although I believe current thinking has ‘proved’ that it is a shroud of someone who has been crucified).
More here:

And of course then there are the comments too, that follow all online articles. Those who so ardently have to prove their point, and usually do so by alienating themselves to the rest of the readership. For example:

‘Duh! cynical attempt to restore some credibility for the church by using a known (but famous) fake to stir the gullible masses. The surprising thing is the masses still ARE so gullible’

‘Is there anybody in the world more gullible than a religious person? They’ll believe anything. ‘

Frankly I find this offensive (although not surprising). I am a well-eduated woman, who has more than an ounce of intelligence. I will not ‘believe anything’, quite the opposite in fact. If I want to know about a subject I look into it, research it, and only form an opinion when I know all there is to know. Faith is not about being gullible, on the contrary it is about believing ‘The ultimate Truth’. Surely it’s far more gullible to believe the lies of the enemy, espceially when they aren’t questioning them…? I liked this comment though:

‘Wow, I’m amazed at the hatefulness and vulgarity spewed in these comments… It seems that if a fake image of Jesus can get under people’s skin, it’s pretty indicative of the spiritual battle going on in their hearts. ‘

So, then, does it matter what He looked like? It certainly seems to bother the unbelievers….

‘Wow’ moments

So in my journey so far there have been some real ‘wow’ moments. Like massive ‘coincidences’ or scriptures that have been really relevant appearing all over the place, real answers to prayer and so on…
Last week I had a huge ‘wow’ moment when I went to a ‘prayer appointment’ at church. This is something I hadn’t experienced before but the basic idea is that people from the prayer team pray for you and share what they think God is telling them. I imagine that some people would be a bit scathing about this – I mean why do you need someone else to tell you what God is saying, right? shouldn’t you be hearing him yourself? All I can say is that anyone who I know who has been to one of these appointments has had amazing revelations through it. And for me, well it was awesome. 3 people prayed for me, one of whom I had never met before and the others, although they had met me, don’t know me at all. They started by asking God what his original ‘design’ for me was, Gods DNA if you like. Firstly, they received words and answers that were me to a ‘T’. They picked up on so many things in my character that were so right, some of which people who have known me for a while wouldn’t know. and what’s more they mostly got the same things. There were a lot of ‘coincidences’, things that others have mentioned recently, or things that have come up in prayer too. One amazing thing was some lines from a song that one of them had come into her mind – which were lines from a song that is really important to me and always makes me feel close to God. It is not one that we sing at church regularly and not amazingly well known, so that was lovely! They all had pictures appear to them, which again I felt were so relevant to me. I won’t go into details but I think they were all pictures of what is to come and I look forward to being able to blog about that! and they all picked up on things that I have been concerned about and answered those concerns without even knowing. In particular I worry about not ‘hearing God’ and wondering when I think I am, whether I am just making it up. They were clear that I am hearing and following his word, which really helped to give me some clarity.They went on to pray for anything that might be getting in the way of my relationship with God. The were keen to point out that I shouldn’t take this the wrong way and just to be open about it all, but of the things they brought up, they were all things I recognised in myself anyway. And amazingly when we were discussing this, one of them said, ‘I’m getting doubt, just like doubting Thomas, it’s like there’s a voice talking in your ear’. So then I knew that God was speaking to her as this is exactly how I had been feeling the day before about doubt and being under attack (I also even blogged about it here) even to the extent of describing it as a little voice in my ear – now that can’t be coincidence! They prayed through these things with me which was so helpful too.It’s moments like this that I think can make so much difference to one’s life as a Christian, just little bits of confirmation. After all the bible refers to ‘signs and wonders’ many times (48 according to Bible search website!) so why shouldn’t we expect them?…This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Hebrews 2: 2-4and even why shouldn’t we expect to do these things in his name? as in:I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12I know it’s not the ‘be all and end all’ and we can’t expect this kind of stuff all the time, but occasionally, well it it pretty awesome, but I guess God is awesome so no surprises there then…

taking it all for granted

Do you know I was surprised yesterday, and that in itself is surprising. Although the ‘new me’ is not quite such a know-it-all as she once was, I do have an irritating tendency to be ‘right’ quite a lot of the time, (written with tongue firmly in cheek I would like to point out, as the written medium dosen’t always show the inference). Anyway, I was surprised. We (hubby and I) were on a short sojourn to Canterbury. As my brother in law lives there we had been several times before, however said b-i-l was about to jet off an a ski trip so after a quick cuppa we had a few hours to spare. So having never been we decided to visit the cathedral. Which was interesting. very. actually it really was, that wasn’t said with the tongue in cheek…
Thanks to my sometimes rather dull parents (tongue in cheek again, in case you were wondering…) I spent much of my childhood hols visiting old churches. In fact not just hols, as my parents are bell ringers, so a lot of weekends were spent wandering round random church yards bored out of my head as they were in the tower ringing. I did discover a love of tombstones though (will discuss that another time..). ANYWAY… Gosh I do digress sometimes -I am like that when talking too, you can never shut me up…

So, anyway, yesterday I wasn’t expecting much of the cathedral, except a nice old building (I do appreciate good architecture so I don’t say this lightly). And I have to admit, having bought the guidebook and spent 5 mins wandering up the nave I wasn’t all that impressed, although it was quite early and the light coming through the windows was just lovely, very poetic.

I was just wondering to myself ‘ well this is all lovely and a great touristy thing to visit, but what about GOD?! I don’t feel much Holy Spirit around here…’ So I was rather surprised when a few things just jumped out at me. Firstly the site of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket. In reading the guidebook (Best 4quid spent for a while..) I read the gory truth about his martydom – quite staggering – this was a truly ‘good’ guy, in the real sense. I was really quite moved by this. And subsequently was moved to tears by a small area for prayer devoted to martyrs and those persecuted for their faith. To just think that there are so many people in the world today who are still persecuted for their faith. We are so lucky, we don’t even realise. I guess the worst a middle class Christian like me can expect would be the odd negative comment from a friend or aquaintance. But to be tortured for one’s beliefs? Or being thrown in prison? Or attacked? To have to leave ones own country? And I worry about what my friends will think? I don’t wish to sound pious or dare I say it ‘preachy’, but really. my worries are so insignificant. I really felt conusmed by this in the cathedral yesterday, in fact I blubbed my way around the rest of the visit. Really must get a grip on myself, I will soon be able to list all the churches where I have been moved to tears…
So all in all a good visit, although the tears very quickly became laughter when we passed by the shop at the end, which as all good cathedrals has a range of tourist tat (not a Christian book in sight), the highlight of which was oversized lollypops bearing, I can only assume, the cathedral logo, have to say I didn’t look all that closely, I was so amused by them just being there…

the ‘D’ word..

No, not that one,the other one – DOUBT. Call it what you will it is I’m sure the bane of many a Christians life. In my years struggling with a traditional church I was plagued by it, so much so that I stopped going to church and really gave in to the doubts. ‘Doubt’ is in essence a state between belief and disbelief, one definition even refers to it as a ‘fear or apprehension’. In no way does it mean a loss of faith, an unbelief and it is important to remember that, it is only if we dwell on it that is when it can become unbelief.

I am sure that this is something that affects many believers at some stage in ther faith. After all, to have faith we have to believe the unseeable, the unproveable, which in this day and age goes against the grain hugely. But although I am sure it is not uncommon, it seems to be a bit of a dirty word, something that is ‘just not talked about’. I spent years besieged by it and all it would have taken to help me would have been a few kindly words from someone saying, thats ok, its just the enemy attacking you, you can deal with this… sadly this was not the case, and ultimately it meant me leaving the church. This is one of my problems with the more traditional church set up (which is an issue for a post in itself!), that so much is not open, not talked about, you don’t get the full picture.

Thankfully, I now know how to deal with it, largely due to the ‘Living Free’ way of teaching (google it if you haven’t heard of it – it’s awesome!).

So, yesterday I felt like I was under attack the entire day. It felt like being the old me, with an almost audible little voice in my ear saying, ‘no one is listening, no one is there you know…’ endless negative stuff. So dull… I spent 20 years having this previously and so my first reaction was fear and panic, (so into the spiral I go, one sin causes another and so on…). But although it was a pretty tough old day I did rebel against it and refused to listen to the enemys lies. Much prayer was had! A lengthy discussion in the evening with my husband ensued and more prayer. Which definitely made a huge difference.

The point I’m making is that one shouldn’t be scared of these things – Jesus gave us the authority to trample on the enemy and we just have to remember that ALWAYS. Doubt is not a dirty word, not one to be scared of, it’s just another lie sent to keep us away from God. The Devil uses the same old things over and over again and this is one of the obvious ones! Ok so that sounds easy and yesterday was far from easy but the thought that I could get throught this, I could deal with it, made me carry on, fight on, knowing that I didn’t have to listen to it. I am sure there will be more days like this and they will be hard to, I just hope each time I remember what I have written here!

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ
1 Corinthians 10:5

Waiting or doing?

What you are is God’s gift to you; what you do with yourself is your gift to God
Danish proverb

Over the last few days God has been putting in my mind ‘using ones spiritual gifts’. It has come up time and time again in different circumstances.

At prayer group last night we were challeneged to write a list of the gifts we think God has given us, and then a list of how we had been called to use them. I found this relatively easy as I had been thinking about it all week anyway! We didn’t all share but a couple of people did and I was quite dismayed by their answers. One lady said she had been waiting 20 years for her calling. This is someone who I believe has a very strong faith. I on the other hand am a newbie, but also champing at the bit and already feel that Iam being called in various ways. Surely those who have been at this game for a while should be reeling off the things they feel they have done in Gods name? I mean I know it is important for us to wait on the Lord sometimes and really listen to his plans for us, but in the meantime there must be things one can do. For exmplae me writing this blog – I mean I started it for me, so I wouldn’t forget everything I am feeling and what is happening, but I know it’s already touching people and I don’t think it was an obvious, shout in my face, kind of calling to write it, just an idea that came to me. So it made me think well, maybe some of us are being called already but we either can’t see it, don’t have the courage to deal with it or chose to ignore it – a bit like the kind of selective hearing which my children are so good at…

Maybe we should all sit down and look at our gifts more often. God has given them to us for a reason. I am a ‘get up and go’ type of person, if I want to do something I just get on with it. I did think that this needed to change in my new found faith (and I know I need to listen more and do what God wants not what I want,) but equally I think it is a really positive force in my life. If I feel God is asking me to do something I am not going to sit around on my backside for days thinking about it, I am going to get on with it… (famous last words… :) ) and I know that used in the right way this could be a really useful gift.

This quote was sent to me by a friend some years ago when I started my own business. It is a bit harsh but actually sooooo true.:

Pitiful is the person who is afraid of taking risks. Perhaps this person will never be disappointed or disillusioned; perhaps she won’t suffer the way people do when they have a dream to follow. But when the person looks back-she will hear her heart saying, ‘What have you done with the miracles that God planted in your days? What have you done with the talents God bestowed on you? You buried yourself in a cave because you were fearful of losing those talents. So this is your heritage: the certainty that you have wasted your life. (Paul Coelho)

I certainly do not want to be there on the day I meet God and when he asks me what I’ve done, to have to say, ‘well, urm, sorry God but I’m not really sure…’ . We all have gifts we can use. If you’re not a get up and go type, maybe you are good with people one-to-one, maybe you quietly spread the word through your actions. We are all evangelists for Christ whether we like it or not, just by living our lives.

I know one of my gifts is being able to communiate with people, I don’t mind standing up in front of people and talking, and have had to do it at various events and in work (funny because as a kid I hated it!!), And I stand up for what I believe in, always have done, so I know that God will use me in this way…. And do you know what? I am raring to go. Yes I know I’m new to this and being fired up as a new Christian is one thing, but how will I fare in a few years time….? I can see all the criticism already, but I don’t care! I want to live my life for God and I want to spread his word, and that is what I intend to do….

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering Gods grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10

normal service is resumed…

So, last week I struggled a bit, and I’ve analysed it over the weekend… a lot… I feel that, probably as a newbie Christian I have been under a kind of blanket of protection, to give me time to really get things in to my head and to prepare myself. And now I feel like that is being lifted a bit. Not as a test, but just to get us back into ‘life’. I have been rather neglectful of my life recently as I have been so immersed in this new life and wanting to know more about God. and obviously some of the old life has to go, and has done, but there is a lot that just has to remain – like the kids, job, husband, school run, etc etc (and I don’t mean that in a negative way !) and I need to put the two lives together. So I think that is what has been happening this week. Work was busy and it will be that way sometimes, the kids were distinctly grumpy and under the weather – nothing new there then – and I haven’t been able to spend as much time in prayer or study as I would like. Which I guess is actually a fairly average week in our house. I had been worrying about this as I felt a bit like the ‘old me’ was coming back but my lovely husband really helped yesterday by making me see that the way I was dealing with these situations was nothing like the old me! and that actually I was using my new found faith to help me through.

I feel that in order to really marry these ‘2 lives’ together that I need to share more with my friends and family what has happened to us, and over the weekend I have had the opportunity to share just a little with a few more people. I was at a party where some of my ‘normal’ (!) friends and some of my church friends were all together, so obviously I knew everyone and there was no backing away from it!

I’ve also been asked to share my testimony in 3 different places. One of which would definitely mean speaking in front of people I have known for some time, so here we go…. no going back now! I know I will be, frankly, ‘bricking it’ doing this, but I also know that God will be with me and guide me and bearing in mind 3 separate places have asked, that is way more than a coincidence!!

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
1 Corinthians 1: 4-9

Clearing out the rubbish…

For some time I have been feeling the need to have a bloomin’ good clear out. Having done this spiritually, I now mean physically, in my house. I am a bit of a collector and I have realised through my fairly new found faith that actually these trivial things mean so little to me. Also having annointed our house a few weeks back and asked for the Lord to show us anything that should go, that maybe we should actually chuck some of these things away. In fact we had a print done by an artist friend of mine that fell off the wall in mysterious circumstances shortly after we prayed about this! So I guess that was a fairly obvious sign…

So… today has been spent clearing, chucking, recycling, and all the bins are full. So many things have turned up that we had forgotten about – Harry Potter books for example (I know the debate still rages about HP, but for us they have to go). I even found a book on how to read tea leaves – now that is defintely not of God!

Thankfully the local cricket club was having a jumble sale today so a lot of the saleable items were taken down there at speed this morning. In fact there was so much stuff that my hubby was sure they would tell him that he couldn’t bring any more boxes in!

We are only really making small in-roads and a lot more has to go, and we have to let go of a lot emotionally, in order to let it go physically, but I know it will be worth it. It’s like I want my home to be completely ‘clean’, metaphorically not literally (now that would take a bit longer..). I don’t want to come across things lurking in corners that really shouldn’t be there.

and it feels so good. so therapeutic. I feel like the more I chuck out the closer I get to God. day off tomorrow, then Monday I start in my studio – now that is going to be hard….